2007 was the Year of the Chinese Restaurant. Some whoppers opened this year, among them, China Kitchen and China House in Hyatt Regency Delhi and Grand Hyatt Mumbai respectively, My Humble House at ITC The Maurya Luxury Collection, Hao Shi Nian Nian and Noo Ba in Gurgaon each with a slew of chefs from Sichuan , VongWong in Mumbai and Nanking in Bangalore .
Though Chinese food is not exactly new to India , this time around, there has been a mind boggling amount of not only research, but effort to put together authentic ambience, quite apart from the food. The upside of this is that we, the dining public, get to sample the best of China right here, in our city. The downside is that those restaurants that have not upgraded are probably ready to call it a day or put in some serious effort.
2008 is all set to be the Year of the Japanese Restaurant. Thus far, almost every Japanese restaurant in India serves either sushi, teppanyaki or both, but nothing more. With the exception of Sakura in Delhi ’s Hotel Metropolitan, no restaurant serves a full representation of Japanese cuisine. However, almost invisibly, most places have started to beef up their menus. At 19 Oriental Avenue in Delhi ’s Shangri La, of late appetizers like wheat miso with cucumber, fermented squid and others have started making an appearance on the menu.
In addition, a prominent restaurateur is set to set up a Japanese-inspired restaurant, the Taj Group is said to open a branch of Wasabi in Taj Mahal Hotel at Man Singh Road, Sakura is set to open a branch in Gurgaon and a five-star chain is toying with the idea of a niche cuisine within the ambit of Japanese food even while 360 degrees and Tiffin at The Oberoi New Delhi and Mumbai put in place a Japanese cold appetizer menu and more Japanese main courses on their menu. Trident Hilton Gurgaon too is set to significantly expand its Japanese section. Dubai chain Japengo (short for Japan on the go) has just opened its doors in Mumbai and most significant of all, Four Seasons has a 90-seater Japanese restaurant in its soon-to-open Mumbai branch
Is it only wishful thinking on my part or will 2008 finally see the emergence of Indian regional cuisine? ITC is set to open hotels in Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai and with Mr. Rehman, Executive Director (Hotels, Food and Travel) ITC Ltd. such a champion of regional cuisine, it is not too far-fetched to conjecture that some excitement awaits us vis a vis hidden culinary gems of regional cooking. Even restaurateurs are venturing into this turf: expect one high-profile and one mid-market project in Delhi that has to do with coastal/regional cuisine.
Seafood and coastal cuisine can hardly have the same hype in Mumbai that it does in Delhi, but even so, there is an across-the-board awareness that regional cuisine is going to the Next Big Thing. Chef Matthew Cropp of The Oberoi Mumbai was as surprised as anyone when his Bengali food festival hit the jackpot. “I never suspected that our city had so many takers for chorchori and doi machch”.
The third trend that 2008 will probably see is the emergence of the coffee house with cakes or the delicatessen with coffee – call it what you will. Whoever does it will virtually be printing money. You cannot find a genuine coffee house in any part of the country – Bangalore’s Koshy doesn’t count, and the seriously decrepit Indian Coffee Houses aren’t anything you or I would step into. Brewed coffee is all set to be taken to the next level, especially in stylish settings, served with interesting nibbles. Expect a small but exclusive range of olive oils, hams, cheeses and chocolates from around the world at the new delicatessen, circa 2008.